No really! That’s the argument. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In January I wrote how for-profit publishers had hired an infamous PR firm to run a campaign against open access publishing. They’ve now produced an organization called PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine!) which is campaigning against Open Access. Coturnix has a comprehensive roundup of the reaction. I thought I’d look at one of the articles PRISM offers in support of their case. Alan Caruba“Open Access” or Covert Propaganda? who writes:


In his book, “State of Fear”, author Michael Crichton appended an opinion entitled “Why Politicized Science is Dangerous,” and cautioned against, “a social program masquerading as a scientific one”, citing the widespread eugenics movement in the early part of the last century.

“A second example of politicized science is quite different in character,” warned Crichton. “It exemplifies the hazard of government ideology controlling the work of science, and of uncritical media promoting false concepts.” Just as eugenics drew praise and support from politicians, academicians, and media in its time, so too has the manufactured crisis of global warming today.

What? I hear you asking. What has global warming got to do with open access? Well, open access gives folk better access to all the studies that find support for the theory that we are warming the planet. No really. That’s his argument. Check it out:

We paid for it, so why shouldn’t We the People have access to it? The problem is that We the People don’t get to decide what gets researched and what doesn’t. Furthermore, We the People rarely have the scientific training and knowledge to grasp the implications of such research. That’s why serious journals, at considerable expense, publish peer-reviewed studies for their peers rather than Joe Sixpack.

Moreover, hardly a day goes by when a headline screams from the pages of some newspaper that some study has concluded that the Earth is doomed or everything you breathe, eat or drink will kill you. The public has been bombarded for years with bad reporting about bad scientific research, a trend “open access” would only compound.

This innocent sounding bill might better be called “The Advancement of Junk Science Act of 2006.”

All the government-funded studies, whether having merit or redolent with hidden agendas, would be available to become a platform by which various social agendas would be advanced.

Because the one thing holding those social agendarists is the fee for reading a closed access paper…

This bill literally forces publishers of medical, scientific and scholarly journals, which invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in their publications, to give away their work. There is something inherently wrong in that. The Open Access bill is, in this respect, an unconstitutional “taking” of intellectual property by the federal government.

But, the research was paid for by the federal government, not by the journal publishers. They are not taking anything from the journal publishers.

So, what starts out appearing to be a reasonable mandate based on federal funding turns out to be bad news for everyone; from those doing the research to those publishing the research. Ultimately the unskilled consumers of “open access” could also be at risk inasmuch as they are unaware of whether the material they’re reading has any real merit.

There are some simple rules that you can use to detect material with no real merit. One is to see if the author is Alan Caruba:

A government that commits boneheaded mistakes every day should not be in the business of requiring what research should be openly available while it competes against private research that may well be of far superior merit.

Comments

  1. #1 Angela
    August 27, 2007

    It seems like this argument about open access journal articles has only become a problem since the invention of the internet. Has anyone ever criticized a library for allowing people to read journals for free?

  2. #2 student_b
    August 27, 2007

    Has anyone ever criticized a library for allowing people to read journals for free?

    Yeah, they have.

    In a neighboring country of mine, they wanted to restrict libraries the amount of access people get to their journals. They wanted to make it impossible to made journals digitally available in the library itself. Not outside, or over the net, in the library.

    They also wanted to forbid copies (just old fashioned xerox) of those journals for education and research.

    Of course, they didn’t get through with it, but it’s not because they didn’t try.

    Basically, yes, they are greedy enough to just demand everything you could imagine.

  3. #3 saurabh
    August 27, 2007

    That argument seems dumb – every reporter already has access to every online journal, that’s how bad science reporting happens – but the other argument I’ve heard that seems less dumb is that open access means fewer subscriptions, and fewer subscriptions means no revenue to run the journal. Which means the only way to survive is to raise the fees you charge for submitting articles (the other source of revenue). These can be hefty – a few thousand dollars in some cases – which means that you’re restricting access to publication on the basis of resources. For smaller labs, and especially labs in the developing world, this can mean restricted access to big-time journals.

  4. #4 JB
    August 27, 2007

    Why do the stupidest arguments always have a libertarian component?

    “A government that commits boneheaded mistakes every day should not be in the business of requiring what research should be openly available while it competes against private research that may well be of far superior merit.”

    I mean, isn’t it possible to argue against something without invoking the specter of a “boneheaded government that robs from the meritorious private geniuses to give to the undeserving welfare state nitwits”?

  5. #5 Jonathan Vos Post
    August 27, 2007

    Open access to oxygen is bad for you. We encourage you to allow a private entity, perhaps a faith-based one, sequester the entire atmosphere, and dole out to you, metered at a market-set rate, every breath of air you need for the rest of your life.

    Unregulated oxygen feeds forest fires. Oxygen in metal cylinders is something we’re happy to sell to hospitals, and to patients at home who need assistance to breathe.

    Bad analogy? Depends. Scholars and scientists and students need scientific papers. They are what we “breathe” EVERY DAY. So why allow them to be freely and openly available?

    Better to depend on, let’s say, the ubiquitous “ducts” in the movie “Brazil.”

    Or the airline subsystems of “Snakes on a Plane.”

    We saw how well that turned out…

  6. #6 Tulse
    August 27, 2007

    Looks like PRISM has endured the wrath of the irony fairies: they use stolen copyrighted images on their website. May we hope that Corbis and Getty Images take PRISM’s advice and vigorously defend their copyright.

  7. #7 Janne
    August 27, 2007

    saurabh: closed journals often charge the authors as well. I’ve seen it quoted (though I haven’t checked it myself) that the average fee is higher for closed journals than open ones. And most open journals do have a system in place for waiving the fee if the researcher doesn’t have the funds for some reason or other (no grant, for example).

    Sweet deal, really – charge the authors, charge the readers, charge the libraries while getting most of the actual work done for free.

  8. #8 Dave Bath
    August 27, 2007

    If anyone is interested, I have a reasonable selection of climate-related links that include actual datasets and climate modelling tools (some for non-researchers – the researcher-oriented software requires compilation on a unix box)

    I’m a huge fan of open-access scientific publishing, and one of my favorites is the PLoS (Public Library of Science – list of feeds on this page) which currently has an emphasis on BioMed.

    There is an old hacker saying (when a “hacker” referred to an extremely competent geek rather than a vandal/criminal) that “information wants to be free”.

  9. #9 Eli Rabett
    August 28, 2007

    The real issue is who guarantees that the archive will be maintained. That was the purpose of libraries, but the libraries no longer control the digital images. That is the evolving role of the publishers.

    Do they have the right to charge for access to their archive (which has real costs to maintain).

    If not, they won’t maintain it, then who will.

  10. #10 Joseph Hertzlinger
    August 28, 2007

    Why do the stupidest arguments always have a libertarian component?

    Alan Caruba’s opinion on immigration does not sound very libertarian.

    Speaking as a libertarian, I must say “Don’t blame us.”

  11. #11 Martin Wisse
    August 28, 2007

    “open access means fewer subscriptions, and fewer subscriptions means no revenue to run the journal. Which means the only way to survive is to raise the fees you charge for submitting articles (the other source of revenue).”

    What is the role of any given (reputable!) scientific journal? Largely it’s as a reputation broker. Publication in such a journal means that the research you did was fact checked and is most likely not going to be bogus. As I understand it the work that goes into writing the articles and the fact checking is in fact done for free anyway.

    For your average scientific journal, largely of interest only tot he people actually active in the field it covers, all you really need is the process of submission and peer review, with some extra work in traffic scheduling. You don’t even need a physical magazine, just a webserver will do. In this context, internet access, in the developing world as well, is universal.

    That does not require huge subscription or submission fees, if you’re not doing it for a profit.

  12. #12 Harald Korneliussen
    August 28, 2007

    Hertzlinger, why should he be denied the title of libertarian, just because of his personal choice to shill for the higher bidder?!

    It’s a free country!

  13. #13 liberal
    August 28, 2007

    Jonathan Vos Post wrote,

    Open access to oxygen is bad for you. We encourage you to allow a private entity, perhaps a faith-based one, sequester the entire atmosphere, and dole out to you, metered at a market-set rate, every breath of air you need for the rest of your life.

    This is in fact exactly the point.

    People making money off of natural resources they didn’t produce (such as air—though of course in the real world the example is land) are collecting economic rents.

    Similarly, the closed access publishers are also rent-collecting parasites.

  14. #14 JB
    August 28, 2007

    Eli rabett asked: “Do they have the right to charge for access to their archive (which has real costs to maintain).”?

    That depends. Not if the original research was wholly or even partly publicly funded.

    If they want to restrict access through fees to private research, fine. More power to them.

    But if public funds paid for it, they should not be able to charge to access it — and certainly not to patent the derived outcome.

    And as far as “who will maintain it if there is no money to do so?”, you just need to look around a bit. There are lots of people around maintaining stuff on the internet with little or no monetary benefit to themselves.

  15. #15 Meyrick Kirby
    August 28, 2007

    Moreover, hardly a day goes by when a headline screams from the pages of some newspaper that some study has concluded that the Earth is doomed or everything you breathe, eat or drink will kill you. The public has been bombarded for years with bad reporting about bad scientific research, a trend “open access” would only compound.

    That’s weird argument. How would allowing the public to read the academic paper that an alarmist newspaper piece is based, on be bad? Surely more likely to undermine the alarmist piece. In my experience academics tend not to be alarmist, except where they have a genuine concern (although you also get the occasion fringe nutter)

  16. #16 Tom
    August 28, 2007

    Our local public library (Carlsbad CA near San Diego) provides Internet access to their InfoTrac account of 47 million articles if you have a library card. Their service includes a filter that allows you to exclusively search peer-reviewed peridocials.

    Which is the way it should be, and the more the better, I say.

    Tom

    http://wow-really.blogspot.com

  17. #17 CJ
    August 28, 2007

    Infotrac is a subscription service for which your library pays out the nose so that you can enjoy the privilege of your “FREE” access. TANSTAAFL.

  18. #18 Eli Rabett
    August 28, 2007

    The stupidest arguments always have a libertarian component because the stupidest people are libertarian. JB has not quite figured out that maintaining an archive is forever if the archive is to have any value.

  19. #19 JB
    August 28, 2007

    Not so, Eli.

    The archive has value as long as it is maintained. :)

  20. #20 Sortition
    August 28, 2007

    > Do they have the right to charge for access to their archive (which has real costs to maintain).

    Blog hosts, for example, manage very large archives without charging anyone exorbitant fees. There are various ways to generate the little revenue that is needed to offset the cost of maintaining an archive. Here are a few I came up with:

    1. ads,
    2. premium membership with extra features,
    3. tipping,
    4. charitable donations by foundations, and
    5. vanity donations by the rich (“Welcome to the Kenneth Lee Lay memorial archives for the Journal of Partial Differential Equations”).
  21. #21 leah
    August 29, 2007

    PRISM is a ridiculous organization and the world (or at least the internet) is now laughing at their expense.
    See today’s comic about them:
    http://www.itgumbo.com/mumbogumbo/2007/08/hypocrisy_scandals_shock_inter.php

  22. #22 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    This needs to be considered from the publishers’ standpoint too, IMHO. I don’t see any mention above of the costs of publishing, of how much money must be spent on trained professionals–editors, typesetters, proofreaders, etc.–who produce said academic journals. Copyright in academic publishing is mainly to insure that these folks get paid for their expertise, and that the expensive process of publishing complex scholarly works recoup its costs in the marketplace. (These costs would undoubtedly go down if we all published on the Internet, but the experts would still need to be paid.) It’s protectionism, pure and simple, but a valuable protectionism nonetheless. And the print runs are small and the audience limited, so any disruption of money, such as happens with copyright infringement (“free access” to many), can be disastrous: it’s not like downloading a single copy of the new Beck CD or whatever, it has a much larger effect. None of us in the industry want to choke the access to what we produce–what purpose would this serve?–we merely don’t want to be destroyed by hyper-rich commercial entities like Google that believe they have the right to reproduce and disseminate our content without our consent, and for badly articulated reasons that pander to fairness and accessibility while hiding the root economic motive. So Google gets rich stealing our hard-made product, while we starve? I don’t think so.

  23. #23 bigcitylib
    August 30, 2007

    Tdawwg,

    While hiring typesetters and etc. costs money, converting a document to .pdf and distributing over the Internet is easy and cheap.

    Why should we all suffer for the inability of journal editers to adapt to new technologies?

  24. #24 kuvasz
    August 30, 2007

    “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a man who has one thing on his mind and another on his tongue.”
    (paraphrased quote from Achilles, the ultimate anti-sophist)

    typical sophist argument from the PRISM people who think public access could hurt their own power. typical use of alleged “free-market” property rights to mask their intent.

    I dont believe a single dollar would be lost by JAMA to allow public access to the most respected medical journal in the world or any ACS journal either.

  25. #25 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    bigcitylib,

    Printed scholarly journals and texts exist for reasons other than the imputed “inability of journal editers” [sic] “to adapt to new technologies.” Print has certain advantages over digital. One is, paradoxically for the digital crowd, cost: while books and journals do cost money to produce, the time, labor, and money so invested are one-off and forever; digital technologies materials must be updated, safeguarded, replaced, massaged, and otherwise labored over. Obviously, both types of information storage are vital, for different reasons: whyn’t have both?

    The question isn’t the medium as means of transmission: most scholarly editors aren’t really interested in playing the zero-sum game of “print-vs-digital.” The question is whether or not an industry that costs some amount of money to run properly can be allowed to recoup its costs in a fair manner. Whyn’t have an acceptable level of both media, with proper safeguards and rights for each, consensually determined by all parties? Why can’t the need for scholarly presses not to be bankrupted be balanced against the need for the quick, accurate transmission of information? And why should dreams of a free and frictionless digital utopia erode my rights to make a living by disrupting the economic base–and not through innovation but through theft–that allows me to live?

    How do all you “free access” types make your money? What would happen if your livelihoods were “liberated” and somehow distributed, disseminated, copied without your consent? I don’t mean this entirely snarkily: most free access folks I know are highly paid computer consulting types that, while they use freeware and open-source codes, nevertheless manage to bill their corporate clients quite handsomely. Is it privilege that makes you all so vocal?

  26. #26 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    kuvasz,

    Most publishing types are closer to Bartleby than Gates: wrong target, I’m afraid. We’re more concerned with keeping up with the costs of living than with where we’re parking our imaginary Bentleys. We’re not the proprietary media moguls you somehow desperately need us to be.

    I’m not affiliated with PRSIM, thanks: nice ad hominem there.

    Putting “free-market” into scare quotes doesn’t abolish centuries-old traditions of the marketplace, property law, intellectual rights, etc. Do you have an alternative system that’s equitable for all parties, or are you just angry at The Man? If the latter, you might find a worthier, larger, richer target for your recycled anti-capitalist rhetoric.

    Dunno about JAMA, but small journals with print runs in the low thousands do indeed run on a shoestring. And they do indeed lose money when their content is disseminated without consent or recompense. Illegal Internet publication isn’t just photocopying something in the library, y’know?

    Achilles is the ultimate anti-rationalist: sophistry is only one of the numerous forms of structured argumentation he abhors. Shouldn’t you use a more clearheaded, less angry, model as your intellectual patron-saint?

  27. #27 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    Oops, not affiliated with PRISM either, haha.

    Snarkiness aside, I recommend aaupnet.org, the homepage for the American Association of University Publishers, as a good place for “my side” of the story. Hardly a Mammon-worshipping group, I’m afraid, but see what you all think. They’ve formed the basis for much of my thinking on the subject, so I’d be interested in hearing detailed rebuttals of their ideas, and some detailed arguments supporting free access, rather than accusations of sophistry and dishonesty.

  28. #28 Sortition
    August 30, 2007

    > Why can’t the need for scholarly presses not to be bankrupted be balanced against the need for the quick, accurate transmission of information?

    This question does not make sense. If you think that “scholarly presses” need to be supported by the public you should make an argument for that and ask for direct public funding. Whether or not such funding is in order, this has nothing to do with restricting access to the information.

    > What would happen if your livelihoods were “liberated” and somehow distributed, disseminated, copied without your consent?

    This happens all the time – workers being displaced by machines or by outsourcing. Addressing such issues has to be done on a principled, fundamental level rather than by ad-hoc fixes, especially when the proposed ad-hoc fixes have clear adverse implications for the public at large.

  29. #29 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    Sortition,

    I see no such claims in what I’ve written above. Since academic presses (no scare quotes needed, that’s what they’re called) recoup near 85% of their costs on the market (the rest is subventions and grants), this would be indeed an odd assertion. My claim, rather, is that academic presses have the right not to be destroyed by the theft of their content. Think what you want about copyright, but amend the law if you disagree, don’t steal my work, thanks.

    Technologies do indeed change, as do economic models. Thus printers eventually supplanted scribes and copyists on the open market. Last time I checked, theft wasn’t an acceptable way of outmoding or supplanting a viable business model; nor, last time I looked, was our ages-old system of copyright laws considered an “ad hoc” fix. And pray tell me what public evil results from requiring that subscribers to a small-print-run journal (and in a specialized, recherche field at that) actually pay for access? Who are these hypothetical hordes dying for lack of exposure to, say, Mesopotamian Archaeology or Advances in Proctology?

  30. #30 Sortition
    August 30, 2007

    > I see no such claims ["academic presses" need to be supported by the public] in what I’ve written above.

    Setting the law so that it protects the profits of such presses is exactly that. “Academic presses” can make most of their money from sales because the government has made it possible for them to do that by giving them a monopoly on certain content. You are arguing that the monopoly should be maintained in order to protect their profits.

    > Think what you want about copyright, but amend the law if you disagree don’t steal my work, thanks.

    Let’s make a distinction here between “theft” as a moral judgement, and “theft” as defined by law.

    Morally speaking, it seems to me that the publishers (including “academic presses”) are stealing the work of the researchers and the property of the public. As for the law, that can be changed, and that is exactly what is at issue here: changing the rules so that what should belong to the public will be accessible to the public without paying outrageous fees to the publishers.

    > And pray tell me what public evil results from requiring that subscribers to a small-print-run journal (and in a specialized, recherche field at that) actually pay for access? Who are these hypothetical hordes dying for lack of exposure to, say, Mesopotamian Archaeology or Advances in Proctology?

    I really don’t know about those particular journals, but I personally had been quite often blocked from accessing research that was of interest to me due to publishers attempting to charge me $10 or more per article.

  31. #31 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    These alleged profits are used to cover the costs of printing, and little else. We’re forced to make most of our money from sales because other forms of subvention are hard to come by. As the aaupnet.org site makes clear, academic presses would be happy to work with the constraints of a different economy, such as the so-called “gift economy,” if only we could be sure of paying the bills. It’s really that simple: we’re not doing this to make oodles of $$$, uphold a monopoly (!), or defraud the public.

    We have no monopoly on content. If scientists and other academics want to publish outside the peer-review academic journal-book system of publications, they’re free to do so. We don’t own their scholarship unless they sign a contract with us to be published by us. It’s called the Internet: if you don’t like peer-reviewed journals, can’t get published by one, or have some other issue with our industry, then start a blog and move the center of power in scholarly publishing over to free-access digital sources, thus redrawing the paradigm for how scholarship is written and disseminated. Don’t complain about how we’re somehow depriving you of your rights to free and untrammeled access to whatever you want.

    Your moral point re: theft seems quite wrong to me. Scholarly publications and presses have never once, to my knowledge, forcibly deprived or tricked or otherwise wrongfully taken from someone their intellectual products. Please tell me of instances in which you know this to have happened. We’re mediums of communication, and if authors choose to publish with us and to cede reproduction rights as part of the deal, then that’s their decision, and a contractual, consensual one at that. All street legal and above-board. The complete and total lack of researcher outrage over this hypothetical theft rather tilts the argument in my favor, no? That this labor is somehow automatically public property seems quite dubious as well: other than your wishes that this were so, what in contract law, intellectual property, and the marketplace would suggest that this is the way things “should” be, and that our current situation is somehow fraudulent and wrong?

    I live in a large city and have access, both through my school and my work, to databases and other sources, so I’ve never been faced with the prospect of paying $10 for an article. Don’t you live near a library, or have some other reasonable means of accessing this information? Saying you’re “blocked” from your information seems disingenuous to me: I’m “blocked” from buying an iPhone because I don’t want to shell out $600 for a product I don’t need, not because evil Apple wants to keep from me what’s rightfully mine. If you made a consumer decision not to afford the market price for your desired information, that would say more about your particular consumer choice, and perhaps your habits as a consumer, than about the marketplace for scholarly publishing. Would you have paid $1? And don’t you already pay for the Internet service you would have used to download the article? The computer you accessed it on? So if you have no problem paying for the labors of technicians, engineers, designers, etc., why do you regard scholarly work as something that should be free?

  32. #32 Sortition
    August 30, 2007

    > if only we could be sure of paying the bills

    Meaning, guarantee your income. As I wrote, I do not advocate taking anyone’s livelihood – the problem is that your way of keeping your livelihood is by restricting access to publicly funded research. And, again, as I wrote, why should we be protecting your livelihood rather than everybody’s? If we are in the livelihood protection business (and I would be on board that project) let’s tackle this in a more generic and reasonable way.

    > If scientists and other academics want to publish outside the peer-review academic journal-book system of publications, they’re free to do so. We don’t own their scholarship unless they sign a contract with us to be published by us.
    > [...]
    > [I]f authors choose to publish with us and to cede reproduction rights as part of the deal, then that’s their decision, and a contractual, consensual one at that.

    This is disingenuous. The academics sign a contract with you because they have no choice – they need to publish in a peer reviewed journal, or their career will be at an end. If they could publish and keep the copyright they would do so. Besides, it should not even be up to the academics. When research is funded by the public, its results should be accessible by the public.

    > Don’t you live near a library, or have some other reasonable means of accessing this information?

    Not that I am aware of. If it was that easy, how would publishers be charging these outrageous fees?

    > I [...] have access, both through my school and my work, to databases and other sources, so I’ve never been faced with the prospect of paying $10 for an article.

    Seems unfair that you, and some lucky others, get that free access, while most of the public does not. Not so?

    > Would you have paid $1? And don’t you already pay for the Internet service you would have used to download the article? The computer you accessed it on? So if you have no problem paying for the labors of technicians, engineers, designers, etc., why do you regard scholarly work as something that should be free?

    Scholarly work is not free – I am paying for it already through my taxes. If distribution would cost some more, then sure – I would be willing to pay something. It is just a matter of how much. How about $10 a month for free access to all the publicly funded research? Currently I would have to pay that much or more just to access one journal.

  33. #33 Joseph Hertzlinger
    August 30, 2007

    I’d never realized that the late Jim Baen was opposed to capitalism.

  34. #34 Tdawwg
    August 30, 2007

    No, Sortition, I mean “paying the bills” when I say “paying the bills”: my journal is a not-for-profit, so we have no profits to safeguard. This is true of many journals. None of the research that we publish in our journal is publicly funded, so that takes care of that. Lots of scientific research is publicly funded, but lots isn’t, so the idea that all research should somehow be public property seems wrong to me. Lots of regulatory institutions decide what I can and can’t do with things that are built with my tax money: I can’t climb to the top of a bridge, nor can I drive 100 mph on public roads, etc. So why is market regulation to recoup costs so abhorrent? And I would argue that however publicly funded research may be, there is a substantial individual contribution that renders the scholarly work individual, not public, property.

    I’m currently a PhD candidate at a publicly funded institution. I’m on scholarship, and receive a substantial amount of money from my school to do research, meet the costs of living, etc. By your argument, the fruits of my individual labor are somehow publicly owned, as they were made possible in part by taxpayer money. I would find this claim absurd, and defend my intellectual labors to the last breath, were someone to try to strip me of them in the name of the public weal.

    The idea that academics don’t need to publish in peer-reviewed journals is not disingenuous. The system we have now hasn’t existed forever: it was arrived at consensually, with many parties agreeing and disagreeing over how it should work, who does what, etc. I see no reason why the intellectual elite can’t come up with an acceptable alternative if they find that the restrictions of paying for copyrighted content are too much for them, are morally odious, etc. As I said, It’s called the Internet: start your scholar blog, help change the world of publishing, and let your intellect shine brightly in another forum. Tenure review boards will follow, much as they agreed to embrace the standards for promotion that obtain today.

    I get “free” access through school because I pay tuition: that is, my scholarship earmarks money to pay the part of my tuition and fees that goes to pay for library materials and technology. My work pays a similar fee for access. I see nothing unfair about this. I chose to live in a big city, and pay to live there: again nothing fair. I also choose to buy food and clothes, pay rent, etc.: should, then, those who don’t choose to pay for these things get them for free? And since “most of the public” lives near some sort of urban center with some sort of library system–which system, no matter how bad locally, is linked in to all the rest of the system–no, I really can’t see how this is burdensome or how I should feel guilty for the of privilege I’ve earned or why folks just can’t schlep off to the nearest library.

  35. #35 Sortition
    August 30, 2007

    >>> if only we could be sure of paying the bills

    >> Meaning, guarantee your income.

    > No, Sortition, I mean “paying the bills” when I say “paying the bills”: my journal is a not-for-profit, so we have no profits to safeguard.

    This is ridiculous. Your salary and that of the other employees are some of the “bills” being paid. This is why you are here making your points – protecting your income. I consider this legitimate, but don’t pretend that you are a disinterested observer.

    > [T]he idea that all [publicly funded] research should somehow be public property seems wrong to me.

    Of course it does, because as Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    > I see no reason why the intellectual elite can’t come up with an acceptable alternative if they find that the restrictions of paying for copyrighted content are too much for them, are morally odious, etc.

    The acceptable alternative, for the academics as well as for the majority of the population (in fact, probably for everybody except for the publishers), is to change the rules so that publicly funded research is freely publicly available. There is nothing less natural or consensual about the proposed rules than about the existing rules.

    > By your argument, the fruits of my individual labor are somehow publicly owned, as they were made possible in part by taxpayer money. I would find this claim absurd, and defend my intellectual labors to the last breath, were someone to try to strip me of them in the name of the public weal.

    If you feel that the new arrangement would “strip” you of your “intellectual labors”, you can always carry on your research without using public funds. I find that at this point the tone of your argument is shifting from an accpetable “what about my livelihood?” to an offensive “it’s mine, mine, mine!”. I find the latter argument much less compelling than the first.

  36. #36 Eli Rabett
    August 30, 2007

    Sortition continues to think that publication is free. In fact, it is not, and in fact granting agencies provide funding through grants to supplement subscription and on line access fees. If the publications are to be open access additional funding beyond the traditional page charges and subvention of subscription fees through overhead charges will be needed.

  37. #37 Sortition
    August 30, 2007

    > Sortition continues to think that publication is free. In fact, it is not…

    Well – enlighten me. What exactly are those large expenditures that cannot be covered in ways other than access fees? How do open-access publications cover them today?

  38. #38 Tdawwg
    August 31, 2007

    Well, editorial costs, for one thing. You know, that part of a nonprofit budget marked “bills,” the one folks who don’t know how nonprofits work might be tempted to label “income.” My journal has a part-time editorial staff of about four people at any given time, folks who copyedit, proofread, traffic workflow, correspond with authors. We end up spending a lot of $$$ on these efforts, like all good academic publications. It takes a lot of time and $$$, for example, to check a bibliography or reference list for accuracy, to proof equations and formulas, to check illustrations, etc. Really, where’s the mystery here? Information isn’t free to produce: why should its consumption be free?

    Once again, I humbly request that those ignorant of the above model or somehow against it START A BLOG and publish your work there! Go for it! Don’t hold back! If us big baaad publishers have got you so down, challenge us LEGALLY by finding alternative venues for your work. Or steal our work and be fined or jailed. It’s all the same to me!

  39. #39 Sortition
    August 31, 2007

    > My journal has a part-time editorial staff of about four people at any given time

    So – four people part time. This represents a minute part of the effort actually being put into the journal, since most of the effort is carried by the authors and reviewers who are mostly financed by the public. I suggest that some way is found (donations, ads, a little extra public money, etc.) to finance whatever editorial work is necessary, and give free access to the product. You suggest that for the small part of the work that you put in, you get exclusive rights to the product. I think my suggestion makes more sense for the public at large.

    > challenge us LEGALLY

    Again: that is exactly what is happening here. There is an attempt to legally change the way the system works to make it more valuable for the public.

  40. #40 Tdawwg
    August 31, 2007

    You have absolutely no knowledge of what goes into scholarly editing, so it seems a waste of time to explain to you that almost always we spend as much if not more time than the scholars we publish. Lots of scholars “phone it in,” leaving the nitty gritty for their editors. Have you ever labored over a tortuously-worded article eighty pages in length, trying to knock it into some sense of readability? Checked a bibliography with titles in 10+ languages? Ever cleaned up a book review written by a European or Asian scholar whose natal language isn’t English? Gimme a f***ing break. And quit it with the “public funding” canard: not all science is publicly funded, and most of humanities publishing isn’t, so just drop it: there’s no clearly articulated guidelines you’re pointing to, just this “public funding” mantra.

    This conversation is over for me.

  41. #41 Sortition
    August 31, 2007

    No reason to fly off the handle here.

    My statement that the part time work of four people reperesents a minute part of the effort actually being put into the journal does not in way imply that the work those people do is not important or demanding. It is simply a matter of arithmetic. Say that your journal publishes 100 papers a year. The authors of each of the papers in the journal have probably put in at least 6 months of work into the paper. Each of them is supported by library personnel, administrative staff, custodial staff and research assistants. Altogether, I would guess that over a hundred person-years go into the research that is published in your journal every year. The part time work of four people is therefore a small part of the entire effort. How can putting in that small fraction justify monopolizing the access rights to the product?

    > not all science is publicly funded, and most of humanities publishing isn’t

    Of course not _all_ science is publicly funded, but much of the published science is. I don’t have statistics (and if you have any, I would be interested), but I would guess that this is just as true in the humanities. Many of the researchers in the humanities are academics in publicly funded institutions.

    Anyway, the proposed law would only require free access to publicly funded research, so if much of research in the humanities is not publicly funded, your employment would not be put in jeopardy.

  42. #42 Tyler DiPietro
    September 1, 2007

    “You have absolutely no knowledge of what goes into scholarly editing, so it seems a waste of time to explain to you that almost always we spend as much if not more time than the scholars we publish.”

    I find it very hard to believe that your editing and publishing duties consume more time and resources than the actual research that goes into the material you edit and publish. I’m not an academic, but private R&D projects typically take place over a span of months to years (depending on the scope), and personnel and administrative costs all have to be consistently met over that time interval. In academic institutions this research is usually publicly funded.

    “And quit it with the “public funding” canard: not all science is publicly funded, and most of humanities publishing isn’t, so just drop it: there’s no clearly articulated guidelines you’re pointing to, just this “public funding” mantra.”

    This is petulant nonsense. That the public should get access to research in return for the public expense is in fact a very modest proposal, and hardly a mere “canard”.

  43. #43 Eli Rabett
    September 2, 2007

    Tyler, if the public FUNDS the publication in full yes. At present the public at best only partially funds the publication. You and sortition are ignoring the costs associated with making and keeping the information available.

    Before you start, let me point out that making such availability mandatory either means that it gets built into the budget or pushes the expense into indirect costs. So budgets have to go up or less gets done.

  44. #44 Sortition
    September 2, 2007

    > You and sortition are ignoring the costs associated with making and keeping the information available.

    I argue (and I think Tyler as well), that the costs of editing and archiving are very small compared to the costs of doing the research. It is better for the public to cover those small extra costs than to have them covered by others and in exchange lose free access rights.

    > Before you start, let me point out that making such availability mandatory either means that it gets built into the budget or pushes the expense into indirect costs. So budgets have to go up or less gets done.

    As I wrote above, these are costs well worth bearing, considering that the lion’s share of the cost is covered by the public anyway.

    By the way, since much of the revenues of publishers come from subscription by publicly funded institutions, the costs pubilshers carry now are already being indirectly funded by the public.

    In addition, we have not even touched on the possibility that much of the cost of the subscriptions has nothing to do with publishers’ costs but with publishers’ profits.

  45. #45 Sortition
    September 2, 2007

    P.S.: There may be ways, such as those I suggested above, to cover those small editing and archiving costs without charging the public.

  46. #46 Eli Rabett
    September 2, 2007

    And those costs are being born through indirect costs, as you would have known if you read Eli’s words of wisdom but you are arguing for a ~OOM increase

  47. #47 Sortition
    September 3, 2007

    I have read your post, but I still don’t see what your point is. Maybe because I don’t know what ~OOM is. Addressing my specific points would be appreciated:

    1. Editing and archiving costs are low compared to other costs of research.

    2. Even those low costs are already partly paid for by the public through subscription fees of public institutions.

    3. There may be ways (like ads, donations, etc.) to cover those costs without having the public pay for them.

    4. The small extra cost, even if paid directly by the public, is well worth the free access.

  48. #48 Marion Delgado
    September 19, 2007

    Sortition:

    You’re completely spot-on. Eli is (uncharacteristically indeed) only thinking short-term (about what publishers could do to ‘fight back’ petulantly, is my guess) and more or less bending with the privatization wind – the libraries “no longer maintain” archives and now “that rests with the publishers” only if we, the public, are world-class chumps. Why is it expensive to maintain digital archives? Moreso than the paper and book archives libraries maintained? Answer: it’s not.

    And Eli, I would direct your attention to the dawn of the CD era and its effect on the recording industry. Basically the publishers of music charged the artist a before anything else flat fee for the heavy cost of vinyl. When vinyl went away, all but a small fraction of that cost went away, but they simply pocketed the fee instead of adjusting it downward. This left them lots of money to aggressively market CDs and also upped the salaries of the payola cutouts, the so-called independent producers, who were classic capitalists – functioning as Royal Toll Collectors who were the sole determinants of what got played on the public airwaves. This same industry predicted disaster when casettes became popular, and their siblings in the MPAA did the same for VCR. Then it was file sharing that was destroying the industry. But really, the 2 things being “preserved” were the illegal-but-forever-unprosecuted radio play protection racket and the vinyl-for-CD outright theft-via-contractual-violation from the artists.

    A corporation’s job is not – ever – to have someone tell the public the unvarnished truth about what’s going on. A corporation’s job is to make money for its owners. And if it’s publicly traded, those are mainly its stockholders, and you can substitute “quarterly profits” for money over the long haul.

    Sortition’s right – Eli’s literally ignoring an enormous cost already paid to these, in effect, middlemen since so much subscription is already publicly funded.

  49. #49 Sortition
    September 20, 2007

    Thanks for the support, Marion.

    I wonder what is your position on the treadle pump dispute I have with “sod”, over at another post.

    I do not seem to be making any converts – or getting any convincing refutations for my arguments.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!